Cannabis and Cannibalism: The Return Of Reefer Madness In The Media?

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director June 28, 2012

    As I told staff this morning in an email, last night and this morning have been surreal being inundated with media requests for interviews on two totally disparate topics related to cannabis:

    Chicago moving forward with cannabis decriminalization for possession

    Media headlines (and some experts’ claims) that cannabis might have caused a guy to kill and chew his victim’s face off

    Talk about one topic being ‘good’, the other one being ‘bad’ (if not totally bizarre)!

    It is one thing for the media to report on the toxicological results from the autopsy of the guy who did this strange and gruesome maiming in Miami last month, but to read a professor of psychiatry at the University of Miami pop off to the Associated Press that maybe it was the strain of cannabis that might have caused this guy to become a cannibal strikes me that this professor is totally incorrect beyond belief and that her comments as an ‘expert’ are going to be repeated in any future news stories, radio and TV shows on the matter of cannabis’ safety.

    Time.com’s Maia Szalavitz has an excellent look at past media-hyped ‘drug scares’ here.

    A NORML supporter contacted the organization this afternoon with his email to the U of Miami professor Patricia Junquera M.D. quoted in the AP piece, and my reply to both of them can be found below.

    Hello Dr. Junquera and Mr. X,

    Thanks for your email.

    Self evidently cannabis does not cause people to become violent in general, and it specifically does not cause people to mutilate others.

    Humans have been using cannabis en mass for at least 3,000 years. Federal data from the US indicate that 40 million consumers use cannabis annually; 7-8 million are regular consumers. Cannabis is consumed billions of times a day across the earth safely with little-to-no credible or verifiable ill effect on the individual, let alone to induce savage violence towards others.

    To say such, or to insinuate in a media interview that a strain of whole-smoked cannabis (there are over 500 strains of cannabis commercially available in the US) could possibly cause violence in humans is not only unsupported in the medical, sociological and demographic literature, such ignorance surely smacks of a new and even more perverse version of ‘Reefer Madness’.

    As DEA chief judge Francis Young ruled in NORML v DEA:

    “In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. For example, eating 10 raw potatoes can result in a toxic response. By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death. Marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within the supervised routine of medical care.

    Like most all drug compounds that are psychotropic, cannabis can be abused. But what cannabis has not shown historically throughout the entire scope of humanity is the capacity to encourage a human being violent towards anything more than a bag of Doritos or a container of ice cream that will not readily open.

    Of all the hundreds of thousands of ‘drug’ compounds humans interface with annually—botanical and pharmaceutical—cannabis maybe one of the safest bar none.

    Cannabem liberemus,

    -Allen St. Pierre

    Dear Dr. Junquera:

    I think that the reason the scholarly world often gets criticized is because of the fantastic and unfortunate conclusions its members often draw.  There are a number of fields where no matter how well versed a person is that without practical, first hand knowledge it still only amounts to mere opinion.

    I find it so hard to believe that as a representative of your profession that you would have the face to actually try to explain how marijuana may have affected Rudy Eugene in causing him to act so unbelievably violent.

    I often try to stay away from making assumptions.  However, I can say, without any doubt whatsoever, that it is obvious that you have never used marijuana.  You have no idea how ignorant you sound to the rest of the world that have experienced the effects of sativa and indica.

    You also have no idea what kind of impact your ignorant statements can make!  You are only adding fuel to the fire in a country where so many have already made up their minds that marijuana is dangerous.  This type of mentality is what continues to criminalize marijuana and perpetuates this comical idea of a lawless land if it were to become legal. Thousands are currently detained because they were apprehended using, buying, or selling marijuana and this is causing a terrible burden upon our penal system and economy.  A drug that is actually less dangerous than alcohol!  Yes, this is true, it is less dangerous than alcohol and if you ever tried marijuana you would realize this.

    I cringed when I read this article (referenced below).  I know that so many people will take your assessment and conclude that marijuana can potentially turn you into a savage and even worse yet, maybe even a cannibal!

    You have a responsibility to choose your words wisely, especially when speaking to the media, because many may think that because of your various degrees and position that you actually know what you are talking about!

    Statements, such as the ones you made, takes away from the little progress we have made pursuing the legalization of marijuana.

    I hope next time you find yourself in this position that you will think twice before you make another irresponsible comment.

    Thank you for your time.
    Another Pot Advocate

    I almost attended University of Miami several years ago but I decided to go elsewhere.  I now feel better about my decision.  Thanks.

    “It could have been the strain of marijuana that increases the dopamine in the brain, such as sativa,” said Dr. Patricia Junquera, assistant professor at the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
    There are two strains of marijuana called sativa and indica. The sativa increases dopamine and gives you energy while decreasing pain threshold. Indica is a “sleepy high,” she explained.
    “People don’t really know what the amount of either is in each little packet of marijuana,” she explained. “And we can’t differentiate between the two in the blood, much less in a dead person.”
    She also suggested that if Eugene had a mental disorder, “the marijuana could have increased even further the dopamine levels and aggravated the situation. So that can’t be ruled out.”

    95 responses to “Cannabis and Cannibalism: The Return Of Reefer Madness In The Media?”

    1. Bradson says:

      The lesson is that anything a person who used marijuana does is caused by the marijuana…unless it’s something good, like becoming president.

    2. Anonymous says:

      The only thing a high person is going to maw the face off of are chocolate bunnies and animal crackers.

    3. BIG AL says:

      I’ll bet they found diet soda in his system and that’s what caused it, no wait…they found traces of milk er no that’s not correct….what they found was a Mcdonald’s hamburger in his system .

    4. crock of shite says:

      Bath Salts is what he did, which messed him up.

    5. Ben & Alicia says:

      Your all wrong . They found artificial sweeteners in his system !

    6. shawn says:

      The mere idea that a drug can reliably produce a cannibalistic response is ridiculous. It’s like saying that cannabis routinely and regularly invokes users to do the hokey pokey, or play duck duck goose. Simply because some cannabis consumers may enjoy playing duck duck goose, or because an individual may have committed cannibalism while using cannabis does not indicate an intrinsic link behind the neurology of cannibalism, nor duck duck goose alike.

      When I read that Eugene was under the influence of marijuana, my first thought was that it’s all the more less likely that this incident is related with drugs, hardly not that cannabis must be the culprit.

    7. Cat Cassie says:

      Well if this is what cannabis makes you do then there must be a lot of faceless people in the world. I mean look at how many use it everyday. Total B.S

    8. bongstar420 says:

      I thought this cannibalization thing was about bath salts and sometimes the synthetic cannabinoids which would be a proxy attack on Cannabis.

      In any case, fucked up people are fucked up before they get loaded. The drugs just nullify their inhibitions.

    9. Douglas says:

      Hey now that a new one.

    10. SaraCsit says:

      Now you know what people who immunize their children feel like when “expert” Jenny M. says don’t do it and more people listen to her!

      Fact is: “An expert on toxicology testing said that marijuana alone wasn’t likely to cause behavior as strange as Eugene’s.”

      This is true. There are millions and millions of us who have used cannabis & never, ever has it been attributed to actions such as Rudy’s.

      Stick with the forensic results, everybody else is just blowing smoke out their rear.

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